Reinheitsgebot: Holding Germany Back?

The average American associates Germany with three things: Nazis, cars, and beer. The most important of these is obviously the last.

Reinheitsgebot original text

Reinheitsgebot Original Text

Many brewers in Germany, especially Bavaria and the south, brew their beer following an almost 500 year old tradition called Reinheitsgebot (“purity law”). This law was created by Albert IV, the Duke of Bavaria, and it stated that beer could only contain three ingredients: water, barley, and hops.

If you’re a brewer or if you know anything about fermentation then you’ll notice a VERY important and vital ingredient is missing – yeast. This is because the law was created before Louis Pasteur’s germ theory proved that microorganisms like yeast existed. Brewers at the time simply mixed the three Reinheitsgebot ingredients together in what I expect were fairly unsanitary conditions and then mother nature did the rest. Nonetheless apparently 79% of Germans want to put the Reinheitsgebot on the UNESCO world heritage list, according to the Deutscher Brauer-Bund.

While it’s interesting that brewers were able to make beer with any form of reliability under those conditions, what is even more interesting, in fact astounding, is that they can still get away with brewing beer whose main ingredients are only barley and hops.

Despite Germany’s brewing-fame, the American craft brewing scene is a few leaps and bounds ahead of the game.

Barley and Hops

It is characterized by fascinating combinations of undeniably unrein ingredients. A local microbrewery in Columbia offers beers brewed with chili peppers, chocolate, flowers, raw fruit, and salt, not to mention far more conventional ingredients like wheat and rye.

I think the reason that Germany’s craft brewing scene is so much smaller than one would expect is because of it’s inability to move beyond the Reinheitsgebot. However, that isn’t to say that there are no German craft brewers.

Bavarians may be more conservative and traditional (I’m talking about beer not politics here), but the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung says there has been a “Mega-Ansturm” of microbreweries in the northern half of the country, especially in large metropolitan areas like Berlin, Hamburg, and the Ruhr.

These German craft brewers are taking a leaf out of the American scene’s book by brewing with increasingly unique ingredients, and also seem to be tapping into the mentality of brewing good, wholesome beers. The Hopfen Helden blog recognizes one Berliner microbrewer as an “artist-slash-brewer.”

Nonetheless, many still brew at least some of their offerings in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot, and there is undoubtedly a stigma against those that don’t follow the old laws. While Germany may be internationally known for brewing good beer, within the country it’s the Bavarians who are known for brewing only reines beer.

Yeast – the missing ingredient

Finally, although the Reinheitsgebot may be keeping German brewing medieval, there is something to be said for the tradition it has set. German beer styles are ubiquitous across the world and the almost all traditionally follow the purity law. And from a technical standpoint it remains an impressive feat to brew such a wide variety of styles with only three ingredients. In any case, it’s refreshing and exciting to see German microbrewing gain some traction and begin to express itself and it will be even more exciting to see how this creativity continues to interact with the Reinheitsgebot.

For a number of fascinating and well-articulated views on the Reinheitsgebot (and only if you understand German) check out this talk:

Against All Good Taste: New-age Music’s Global Reincarnation

To ensure the proper state of  mind for reading this post, find a comfortable chair, do some deep-breathing exercises, and let it all go. We’re about to get mellow.

At the end of last year, the fantastic reissue record label Light in the Attic put out the wonderfully blissed-out I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990, compiling twenty new-age composers, both well-known and obscure.

I should note that well-known is an extremely relative term when speaking of New-Age music, a genre generally cast aside as being boring, cheesy, and generally laughable. Auftouren argues that “Spätestens seit dem Italo-Revival ist „cheesy“ kein klares Schimpfwort mehr,” that is, “Since the Italo-revival, ‘cheesy’ is no longer an insult”. Take a look at Giorgio Moroder, father of Italo-Disco:

Giorgio Moroder, father of Italo-Disco

Giorgio Moroder, father of Italo-Disco

If Giorgio is no longer cheesy, then it follows that nothing else can ever be cheesy ever again.

Anyway, I feel like New-Age music as a whole is grossly misrepresented in the public imagination. Die Presse makes the argument that “New-Age” tends to be a pseudonym for poorly-produced soundtracks, used to dress up pseudo-spirituality, and I’m sort of required to agree. But you don’t have to buy into all of the metaphysics of it in order to appreciate it.  The point isn’t to be catchy, nor to be popular, but rather to be meditative and serene, and if you don’t like it, then get out. New-Age musicians wouldn’t put it that way, though. They’d be a lot more mellow about it.

Iasos would be especially mellow in telling you to chill out and enjoy the music

Iasos would be especially mellow in telling you to chill out and enjoy the music

So, if an American compilation of New-Age music is getting German-language press– favorable press at that, then what is the German connection? It’s a story that goes back to the heady days of 1960s West Germany, where people were taking loads of drugs and messing with huge synthesizers. German groups like Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel are the direct progenitors of New-Age music worldwide, and I dare you to listen to Ashra’s New Age of Earth  without being swept away on waves of synthetic bliss.

In response to the publication of I Am the Center, the New York Times ran an interesting post entitled “For New Age, the Next Generation“. It’s well worth a read, but I’ll summarize for you here: New-Age music and German progressive electronic music of the 1970s and 1980s has crossed the pale of “cheesiness” into the safe harbor of popular appeal.

The Times includes a quote from I Am the Center mastermind Douglas McGowan, and I’d like to use it to close out this post.

“Getting away from the noise of society is such a central idea in that space is silence and nothingness and emptiness…Once you wrap your head around nothingness as being a virtue, it becomes so much easier to appreciate the music on its own terms”- Douglas McGowan

Maybe we should all just get away from the noise of work, traffic, the kids, what have you, and slip on some headphones and embrace wonderful, peaceful, beautiful nothing.

Across Borders: A Parkour Generation


Human motion need not be delimited by carefully-set sidewalks nor inhibited by obstacles. Leap over walls, swing from the rafters to get to your next destination via le method naturelle. The spectacle often leaves average pedestrians awestruck in the dust. Parkour enthusiasts, called traceurs, draw unique lines of approach to this sport of urban free-running and develop their philosophies from the spirit of it. The movements evoke practitioners’ primitive sides while the discipline places them vis-à-vis with moments of fear and truth about the psychological and physical limits. The conceptualization of parkour breaks down ideas of spatial and social confinement, which have restricted our harmony with our environment. As one enthusiast put it, “The idea that the only way to get to the second floor is from the inside of a building is preposterous.”


The community’s consensus is that this adrenaline-pumped martial art was born in Lisses, France, where modern legends-in-the-making like Sébastien Foucan and Jérôme Ben Aoues expressed their free-flow style by jumping, flipping, scaling, leaping along their own paths with exceptionally acrobatic, and distinctly defiant, French flair since the 1990s. Here, skateboarding was not allowed and public playgrounds had rules against this type of play. They developed a sport that complemented surrounding architecture in creating alternate, and often impressive, routes of transit for the nonconformist traveler. The style quickly spread throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, and the Americas. Parkour Generations America started in 2005 with a runabout rendezvous – here is their showreel:


The most spectacular stunts are done among rooftops, but fundamentals should be learned at ground level. Today, online organizations like and seek to inspire young French traceurs by providing tips, tricks, and testimonials from those who have become proficient in the art of creative movement. The masters teach use of fundamental and natural motions, mental rehearsal, and hard work to become fluid in the art of manipulating your horizon, because after all, “the art of moving is about hard training.” Exercise regimes challenge cardiovascular systems, build core strength and improve muscular endurance. The essence is in the footwork, the hand placement, the unique flow of the individual in their route and how they assess obstacles. Uncontested sensei Sébastien Foucan explains that, in his experience, “practice is best done alone…to be focused in yourself. When you are alone you’re a little bit afraid and you need to find why and the solution.” And urges hopefuls in its introduction not to put the cart before the horse. “The flow comes from years of hard work. Even apes and monkeys practice all the day long during their childhood learning from their parents.”


Groups like UrbanFreeFlow and Freemouv display skill at international competitions, most recently this July in the French Alps and in August in Wisconsin, USA. Their talents have also been displayed in such recent films as 007 James Bond: Casino Royale and Jump Britain. Foucan recently helped K-Swiss develop the Ariake, the first freerunning and parkour shoe. Nikon and GoPro have contests to sponsor amateurs in creating parkour videos for the web.

To date, the writer has personally adopted many movements of Animal Planet in conquest of free-running basics. Visualize me at 25, meditating at dawn and practicing throughout Missouri’s karst landscape during my frequent hiking trips. I still get the urge to climb to the top of the playground tower and every other imposing structure I come across. As a novice, I hurt my ankle while leaping between platforms last month and haven’t been as spry since. I should have been wary of encouraging instructions that included the phrase, “various opportunities to jump off the roof.”


Ultimately, parkour is for hard-chargers, fast runners, young kung fu masters, trapeze artists, and those kids who grew up having the most fun on the school playground. It continues to be rapidly embraced by a generation of unprecedented physicality and philosophy: a parkour generation.


Mitfahrgelegenheit-rideshare an alternative way to travel


… if you wanna travel to somewhere. But it’s too boring to drive all by yourself, so maybe you want to think about joining a carpool. The first time I got to know this alternative way of travelling was several years ago, when I watched the German movie “Im Juli“. I have never heard of or knew anything about this before; it was like a culture shock for me back then. Juli decided to travel without planing. She just waited on the roadside for the first car which stopped. The car’s destination is her destination of the trip. Is that romantic? I think so!


Actually, Mizzou has also such a thing called ride share, I’ve read about this several times while reading Mizzou Info emails. But it seems it is not very popular here. According to my knowledge, this kind of travel experiences can be seen more often in European movies than in American movies. So I’m wondering if Americans are interested in this or not?  Then I did a little research on this, and I found this article How To: Ride Share With Strangers.

My German friend told me that she likes ride share / Mitfahrgelegenheit a lot. So I guess ride share is more popular in Germany than in the U.S.

But  I would never try to ride share with strangers or like Juli did in the film, waiting randomly for someone who can give her a ride. Of course, ride share with strangers is fun, romantic and cheap, because you’ll meet lots of different people. But I’m always worried about the safety problems, especially for a single woman who travels alone.

(Shades of) Grün – Turning the Page of Nuclear Power

While the nuclear disaster in Japan acted like a wake-up call to the world’s growing dependence on nuclear energy, Germany is “the only country to abandon the technology to date.”

Germany announced earlier this year that it is phasing out nuclear power. In June, Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, passed the plan of decommissioning nuclear power and shutting down all nuclear plants in Germany by 2022. So far, eight out of Germany’s seventeen nuclear plants have been shut down, and the deadline for the remaining nine is within eleven years. Germany’s energy revolution also sets the goal of having at least 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.

Germany Nuclear Power Plants Map

Credit: Spiegel Online

The unprecedented decision makes Germany the leader of the world seeking the best energy resolution, but Germany’s decision also leaves itself with all sorts of obstacles and challenges.

Being the first nation in the world to discontinue nuclear energy production, Germany still faces the risks from nuclear reactors of its neighbours. Its neighbour France, for example, uses nuclear energy to meet 75 percent of its energy needs. People in Germany are still under threat at a time when the impact of a reactor catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan could reach the U.S..

Before Germany started to close down nuclear plants, nuclear power accounted for 23 percent of its energy needs. The pullout from nuclear power is disastrous for the nuclear industry and major energy companies. The energy company Vatterfall is planning to sue the German government because of the damage that the government’s decision has brought to the company.

Another critical question that is being asked is where to store the radioactive nuclear waste. Finland is building the world’s first repository of nuclear waste, the Onkalo. It is featured in the documentary Into Eternity. The Onkalo must remain undisturbed for 100,000 years to keep the waste from harming the earth.

It has also been said that the phase-out of nuclear power will cost the people. Individuals in Germany are having higher electricity bills. However, are Germans’ bills before the phase-out or our nuclear-generated electricity bills really lower? The hidden cost, including environmental cost, health cost and social cost, is not figured into the calculation. How much are people in Japan paying for the nuclear disaster?

Germany is not alone in the energy battle. The world needs an energy revolution. While Belgium is likely to join Germany to phase out nuclear power by 2025, the U.S., who is the largest producer of nuclear power, has got a plan to build new nuclear plants. The world’s 14 percent of power supply comes from nuclear energy. Should we build more Onkalos to sustain the 14 percent of our power supply, or should we follow Germany’s step to turn to the next page?

Let’s start things earlier, in Europe.

Photo Credit: Timebooth

Every year we are changing our clocks, either “springing forward” or “falling back” into time.  We synchronize our clocks either to save some daylight (Daylight Saving) or to return back to our standard time.

For this year, in the United States, Daylight Saving began on Sunday, March 13, 2011 and will end shortly on November 6, 2011. This change occurs each year in order to save one hour of daylight in the afternoon and have one less hour in the morning. But why does this happen, and since when?

George Vernon Hudson, a well known astronomer and entomologist, thought of this concept in 1895.  Since World War I, it has been used by most European countries and the United States. Germany and Austria started this in “an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power.” Other countries started adapting this immediately.

The United States actually passed a law in 1918, known as “An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States.” If one wants to read more about the law, click here.

Adding an extra hour of daylight adds a lot time for various activities.  This is beneficial for individuals who partake in outdoor activities, as in George Hudson’s case. Not everyone is in favor of this change because it does cause problems for individuals where daylight is a part of their occupation, like farmers, for example.  Other problems and challenges also arise when it disrupts our sleep schedule, cause changes in flights and meetings, and it can also effect our record keeping.  However, drawbacks and benefits vary from person to person.

Photo Credit: Tuftsjournal

As I was sitting in my living room talking to my dad about how the time change is approaching, he informed me that the time has already changed in Europe.

Europe has an EU-Rule, which has to be followed by all countries in the Union, that tells individuals when the time change occurs.  Other countries in Europe, that are not part of the Union, have simply adapted to this rule for their own benefit. The United States, however, has not been as consistent as Europe in the past.  In the “early 1960s, observance of Daylight Saving Time was quite inconsistent, with a hodgepodge of time observances, and no agreement about when to change clocks.” Now, the entire country changes the time consistently and accordingly.

In Europe, the time change begins at 1:00 am on the last Sunday of March and ends at 1:00 am on the last Sunday of October.  In the United States, the time change begins at 2:00 am on the Second Sunday in March and ends at 2:00 am on the First Sunday of November.

Time changes vary according to the continent, country, and state.  Europe countries change their time before the United States, but Hawaii and Arizona, for instance, never change to daylight savings.  Other territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands also keep their time as is.

How do you feel about the time change? Is it beneficial for you, or does it affect you in a negative way?

Fall Brews – From East to West

All good beer drinkers (Euro and Yank alike) know, with the crispness of fall comes the excitement of both classic and innovative autumnal beer.

The tradition is the classic pale lager, originating in Munich, Germany.  Pale Lager is a lean, stable beer and is most widely drank as what people consider “regular” beer around the world today.  They tend to be dry, lean, and like Autumn itself, crisp.  Traditionally, during Germany’s biggest fall festival, Oktoberfest, a type of Pale Lager dubbed “Märzen” is the drink of preference and has been since 1818.  Oktoberfestbier is supplied heavily in Germany by what is known as “The Big Six” breweries.  (Spaten, Löwenbräu, Augustiner-BräuHofbräuhaus München, Paulaner, and Hacker-Pschorr. (All conveniently located in Germany’s southern half and beer haven, Bayern)  If you’re looking for your typical, traditional Autumnal beer, look no further.  Each of these breweries offers their own specific versions of Oktoberfestbier and many offer international ordering and shipping.

To step up from the pale lager, Fall beers also often come in the form of a Bokbier, or “Bock.”  Bock beers are dark, sweet, lightly hopped, malty ales traditionally associated with holidays and festivals.  In areas like Austria, Bokbier is drank particularly around Christmas time, but places like the Netherlands and Belgium like to get things started off in Fall with strictly seasonal Autumn Bock Beers. Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a brewery in Amsterdam, Netherlands, brews a specialty fall beer called “eco-beer biobok.”  The IJ Bok is, “Dark and Robust, but not too sweet.”  It is available every year from September through November.

Finally, and most typically American, we have the specialty Autumn “flavored” beer.  These beers are generally ales brewed to include typical Fall tastes, such as pumpkin, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other thanksgiving-style flavors.  Quite generally, these beers are sweet and full flavor.  In fact, as this next beer exemplifies, they can be a bit of a dessert beer, so to say.  A typical and delicious fall beer brewed in the States is The Bruery’s “Autumn Maple.”  Brewed in Orange County, California, this belgian-style brown ale is reminiscent of the sweetness of Halloween and Thanksgiving combined.  It is a bold and spicy blend of  traditional Belgian yeast strains, sweet potatos, maple syrup, allspice, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg and not only smells, but also tastes uncannily like a pumpkin pie.

Assi TV – Germany’s Jersey Shore

Bad Girls Club?  No way.  It's "Böse Mädchen" for Germany.Rethink your classy connotations of society, its time to bring on EuroTrash. Welcome to RTL, Germany’s quasi-copy-cat-less-relevant version of VH1 minus all the “Behind the Music” substance.  We’re looking at straight daytime television here, folks and all predictions point to trash.

RTL is infamous throughout Germany, France, Luxembourg, England and most Western European countries for it’ mixture of talkshows, reality TV, but most importantly, what the Germans fondly term, “Assi Fernsehen.”  Don’t know what Assi means?  Let’s get you the basics.

Assi is a combination of what Germans coined “Asozial,” directly translating to Anti-Social.  However, Germans (notorious for their love of word play and dubious double meanings) play up the spelling of this abbreviation, toying with the word “ass.”  Which literally translates… to ass.  And the vulgarity only goes deeper.

So, let me spell this one out for you just one more time to be certain you get it.

Get it?  Good.

Okay?  Okay.  Moving forward…

Now, there are many subcategories of Assi TV.  Just like on that American boob tube, you’ll find your overly dramatic, life changing talk-show,  your typical video-cameras-in-the-faces-of-dysfunctional-families-who-need-counseling documentaries, and the famous German-termed “Doku-Soap” (the bottom of the abyss where documentation and soap operas swirl ominously).

So,  Let’s discuss.

Overly Dramatic, Life Changing Talkshow

In this category, any daytime television watching German will immediately tell you, you need to watch BrittBritt is a talkshow so kindly self-termed a “comedy show” by its makers at SAT.1.  However, after watching a few episodes, your average American viewer will start to notice some running similarities that sets a little bell ringing in the back of your head.  That bell… is called the Jerry Springer bell.  With show titles spanning the range from “Du Bitch” to “DNA Test- Passen wir wirklich zusammen?” Britt is very Springer, indeed.  More of a Maury fan in the first place? No problem.  See for yourself.

Video-Cameras-in-the-Faces-of-Dysfunctional-Families-who-Need-Counseling Documentaries

This is a category also hideously well-known to the average American television connoisseur.  We’re running much more along the lines of Jersey Shore here.  The top Assi show in Germany that falls under this sub-category is without a doubt Familien im BrennpunktFamilien im Brennpunkt shows every day during the week at 4PM in Germany on RTL (Germany’s pseudo-VH1) and supposedly  “begleitet im Stil einer Doku Konflikte unter deutschen Daechern, die Anwaelte und Gerichte beschaeftigen: Scheidungsdramen, Sorgerechtsstreitigkeiten,Probleme rund um die Anerkennung der Vaterschaft oder Probleme mit Aemtern und Behoerden.”  Whew.  Let’s break it down now y’all.  Basically, what RTL is trying to say, is this show covers (with STYLE!) complaints that generally require lawyers and pertain to common law.  You know.  Things like mega-divorce, Fist fights, Problems with and questions about paternity,  general wanting to stick it to the man, 13 year olds with babies and children who won’t poop on the toilet.  Each show revolves around a different set of dysfunctional people doing hideously dysfunctional things. Typical Trash TV gold.


Finally, the best for last–The “Doku-Soap.”  Be it following people with a “love” (ahem) for animals or a 50 year old woman with an Ultra-Crush on the boyband, Tokio Hotel, the DokuSoap Mitten im Leben has it all.  Mitten im Leben has been termed the purest of the pure when it comes to Assi Television in Germany.   Each episode is an hour of premium filth, the clearest of embarassment to humanity.  Descriptions do not do it justice.

Albeit the extreme lack of English language throughout the clips provided, it remains extraordinarily evident, trash TV is a banal human desire.  We need it.  Its global, universal and in a way connects us all.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Ritter Sport, meine Lieblingsschokolade


The first time I heard of chocolate, it was on TV. And the first chocolate brand I heard of was Dove. Dove meant luxury for me, when I was in China. So when I arrived in the U.S., the first thing I bought at Wal-Mart was Dove chocolate. However, I found out that Dove is less popular in the U.S. than in China, and it tastes different too. In fact, I found it tasted boring.

Luckily, I found Ritter Sport on the shelf, which comes from Germany. The first time I tasted “Ritter Sport” was several years ago in a German class. One of my teachers from Germany shared this delicious chocolate with us. I still remember her giving me a white square of yogurt-flavored chocolate. I was so surprised – how can chocolate be flavored with yogurt? And even more interestingly, it was a square shape instead of rectangle shape like other chocolate.


After my disappointment with Dove, I was so happy to find Ritter Sport. Although I didn’t find the yogurt flavor, the other flavors pleased me, and it tasted exactly the same as I remembered.

One thing interesting I found is that it seems that Americans are only interested in three flavors: Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnut, Milk Chocolate with Whole Hazelnut, and Milk Chocolate with Neapolitan Wafers. These are the only flavors I could find at Wal-Mart and Walgreens. Where are the other flavors? Of course, in Germany!


America has a reputation for being creative, but in terms of chocolate flavors, I would have to disagree.

You can find more details about Ritter Sport under:

(Shades of) Grün –1

German Grün VS. American Green

“Which do you like better, the U.S. or Germany?” my Dad asked me after my first year at MU. Though I had been to both countries and had a taste of both cultures, I didn’t find it an easy question to answer. There are just so many aspects of each of them. But as a traveler, one thing that I am sure of is that disposable plastic cups in express hotels in the U.S. don’t win my favor. In Germany, instead, reusable cups are always found in hotels and inns.

The cup situation probably could suggest the different fashions of  “Going Green” of the two countries, as “Going Green” has become a global trend. Americans have environmental activists, such as the No Impact Man. And they are the people who push the movement forward. In Germany, it is more than a No Impact Man; sustainability penetrates the culture. It is more than a group of activists demonstrating in front of the White House, being green has become a tag of the nation.

I read that in Germany, the share of renewable energy has crossed 20 percent mark based on the report by German Association of Energy and Water Industries released on August 29, 2011. The increase could not be possible without its widespread “Green Culture”, no matter it is the ambition of the government administration, the effort of the Green Party in politics or the consciousness of the people. Meanwhile, in the U.S. the Obama administration just gave up its plan on stricter ozone pollution standards. The USA Erklärt blog compared the energy consumption of the U.S. and Germany.

A well-developed recycling system is integrated into Germans' mundane life. Source: Sarah Bush

The policies cannot do it all. I remember visiting a German couple in Osnabrück in Germany. In their house, they have bins in different rooms to collect different kinds of trash or recyclables. They also introduce these classification rules to their guests and ask them to follow. They grow vegetables in their garden and air dry their laundry in their backyard. The husband is now retired and is involved in local conservation groups. I’ve been looking forward to visiting them again and studying from them.

Terror in Germany

When many Americans think of terrorism, they think of plots against Americans carefully planned by evil middle eastern extremists. However, terrorism is a world-wide problem. Germany is one of many countries always on the watch for potential terrorist threats… and for good reason.

In 2006, two bombs were hidden in suitcases and placed on regional trains heading for the cities of Koblenz and Dortmund. Luckily, the bombs ended up not exploding due to faulty construction techniques but this event raised awareness of Germany’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks. Since then, Deutschland has increased its ability to infilitrate suspect groups and has also raised the extent which it monitors internet activity.

Germany’s Interior Ministry has stated that since the beginning of the year, threats to Germany from Al-Qaeda  and other Islamist organizations have increased to a whole new level.

Germany’s Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maiziere, has confirmed that the ministry has received concrete indications of not just one, but a whole series of attacks planned for the end of November. With security already at a heightened level, the German government is taking these threats very seriously. Hopefully, Germany’s government will succeed in putting a stop to any and all plots to harm their citizens.

Americans are Fat

BY ASTRID WAGNER AND MARKUS SPIER When you think of Germany, what comes to your mind first? Let me guess? Beer? Even though I am most likely right you might also have thought of Lederhosen, beards, German Shepherds, the German’s love for David Hasselhoff, the Autobahn and many more.

But that’s okay – stereotypes are not necessarily wrong and statistics show that Germans indeed drink more beer than other nationalities, some Germans wear Lederhosen, some Germans have fancy moustaches, some Germans have German shepherd dogs, and some Germans do even love “the Hoff.”

Some stereotypes are insulting, such as the one that Germans are fat, some stereotypes are respectful and show admiration of the Autobahn. But as you can tell by the frequent usage of the word some, stereotypes are not very accurate. But that should be common sense.

Just as Americans have their stereotypes about Germany, there are many clichés about Americans, as well.

The stereotypical American seems to be fat and lazy, he watches TV all day and the only exercise he gets is the walk to his oversized car when he drives to the nearest fast food restaurant and orders a supersize meal. Americans are stupid and slow, and their geographical knowledge, nay awareness is restricted to the state they live in. These are just a handful of the many stereotypes that exist but all we want to do is to raise awareness to the insufficiency of stereotypes when it comes to describing a people as diverse as that of the United States.

Again, you will find confirmation of the stereotypes or exceptions when depending on where you look and what you look for. For example, when I spent a year as an exchange student in Roscommon, MI, I was asked if Germans really live in caves without electricity and running water and if Hitler really still is in office. But questions like these are the exception to the rule. As a matter of fact, most Americans we meet display a genuine interest in foreign cultures and many Americans know at least about the countries of their ancestors. While it is true that many Americans are rather oblivious of anything that happens in the world if it doesn’t concern their lives directly, one has to keep in mind two things: First of all, the U.S. are a huge country and there’s enough going on in North America to keep track of. Second, you will also find many Germans who don’t know much about things that go on outside of Europe.

Probably the most persistent stereotype of Americans is that they are fat. While there are many obese Americans, there also is a huge counter-movement advertising a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of exercise. If you compare this to Germany again, you will be able to observe the same. As a matter of fact, in any Western country, people live in abundance – they can eat whatever they want whenever they want – and their lives have become extremely convenient. Maybe this development has started in the United States or Americans have bragged about their achievement of creating abundance the most and that’s why they are now portrayed the way they are. However, these stereotypes are slowly changing as the Western world moves closer together and American historian Peter Bladwin claims that the Atlantic is getting smaller.

There is one stereotype however, that so far, we have only found one exception to. Americans never are on time, which is especially hard for the stereotypically punctual German. The only exception is Eric – but he has spent several years in Germany.

European soccer fans riot in Paris

Soccer has never been considered a major sport in the United States.  The soccer scene in Europe, however, is a cultural phenomenon, one where people go out to bars and pubs and socialize with friends, family or coworkers, all while watching the game. European soccer fans sing, dance and stand for the entire match, expending energy at an incredible rate. Meanwhile, American soccer fans prefer to be spectators while relaxing in a “sedentary” state.

Portugal fans begin to riot before their match against Spain in the World Cup in the streets of Paris.

Portugal fans begin to riot before their match against Spain in the World Cup in the streets of Paris.

The joy experienced from being part of a heaving mass of humanity at a soccer match cannot compare with the peace gained sitting for hours on end. My friends and I visited Paris during the 2010 World Cup.  Little did we know that we would have a strong cultural experience by ending up in the middle of a soccer riot. After Portugal tied Brazil in the final round of the group play stage, it was determined that Portugal’s next match in the round of 16 would be against the eventual World Cup champion, Spain.

On our first night, my friends and I took a walk towards the Arc de Triomphe, a monument to Napoleon and his victories. We walked past the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and eventually found ourselves on Avenue des Champs-Élysées, walking towards the giant monument in front of us. After a few minutes of walking, some Portugal fans ran past us, carrying the Portuguese flag around their back. They were running towards a massive mob of other Portuguese fans, all celebrating that their team advanced out of group play.

The pictures that I took this night show how crazy these soccer fans can be when national pride is on the line.

Portugese and Spanish soccer fans rioting in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

Portugal and Spain soccer fans rioting in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

Next thing we knew, we were caught right in the middle of these crazy soccer fans dancing around, singing and yelling words that I had no clue what they were or what they meant. On the other side of the street, the Spain fans were doing the same thing: jumping, dancing and celebrating the fact that their team had advanced. After a few minutes, the celebration turned ugly. First, fans ran up to cars driving on the street and wave their respective flag in the cars window, until someone got offended when the other country’s fans went up to the same car as them. Meanwhile, some buses packed with tourists were driving by. At first, it started innocent, with the fans waving their flags at the buses and pounding on the sides. However, with traffic picking up, and the fans getting more rowdy, they attempted to tip over the buses onto the other side’s fans. Luckily, the buses were able to drive away in time to avoid being tipped over.

Portugal fans attempt to tip over a bus driving towards the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

Portugal fans attempt to tip over a bus driving towards the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during the 2010 World Cup.

After getting in the way of cars, tipping buses, burning each others flags and a couple of brawls, the riot police came to keep the fans separated. My friends and I, since we’re all journalism majors, had been taking pictures this entire time, and continued to do so when the riot police came, so we could show proof to our friends and family back home that we really did get caught up in a soccer riot while in Europe. One of the police officers caught my friend taking a picture of him, and came over to make my friend delete the picture. After the police got there, the fans started to settle down, but it was an experience that truly showed how crazy some European soccer fans can be.

Riot police block Portugese fans from running in the street and tipping over cars and buses.

Riot police block Portugal fans from running in the street and tipping over cars and buses.

Just a side note: Spain defeated Portugal 1-0.

Riots from crazy sports fans have happened before, with fans lighting stuff on fire, destroying houses and cars, but experiencing a riot first hand is far more frightening than just watching videos.

Some Americans also enjoyed the game in Europe, but not as much as the Europeans. Fifa set up a Fan Fest, and aired the World Cup games in six cities in the world, including Paris and Rome. In the United States, fans took motivation from the fan fest and their peers across the Atlantic and followed the team as the tournament progressed, but still not to the same degree as in Europe.